Dumbledore hesitated one last time outside the door, then he knocked. He had not expected a young woman such as the one who jumped nervously when he came in. She was thin, and she wore a shawl, many chains around her neck and thick spectacles. Inadvertantly – at least, he hoped it was –, she looked like a Muggle fortune teller.
"Sybill Trelawney?" he asked, taking a look around.
The room was cleaner than the last time he’d been there – but not too clean, Aberforth had to live up to his reputation, after all. The paper on the walls was so faded it had no identifiable color anymore. There was no painting, not even a landscape, for the guests tended to fear to be spied upon. There was a little wooden bed at one side, and next to it a rickety nightstand. The Seer was seated at a small round table that seemed to have been used to honed a knife – or probably more than one –, facing an empty stuffed armchair.
"Yes, I am Sybill Trelawney. And you are Albus Dumbledore," she answered in a misty, dreamy voice.
It was not a question.
"My inner eye informed me of your approach," she said.
Well, since he was supposed to meet her here, at this very hour, he doubted her inner eye had anything to do with it.
"I know you’re going to sit down," Sybill Trelawney continued. "So, please, have a seat."
If Dumbledore had had any doubts before that meeting, now he knew he had taken the right decision: there would be no more Divination classes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The young woman was trying so hard to prove him that she was a Seer that he saw her for what she was: a fraud.
But he sat down nonetheless. His time was precious, but he had to tell her why he didn’t need her. He was opening his mouth to talk when there was a slight creaking noise in the corridor. He closed it, frowned and strained his ears. But he heard nothing more.
It must have been one of the cats, he thought. Or a goat.
Dumbledore opened his mouth again… but a strange voice cut him.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…" Sybill Trelawney said, "born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…"
There was a commotion in the hall – someone shouted something – but Dumbledore couldn’t leave now, he couldn’t go out and see what was happening. His heart hammering in his chest, he listened intently to her every word.
"And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…" she continued, "and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"
Sybill Trelawney’s head fell forward, but Dumbledore hardly noticed – he was too stunned.
She’s not a fraud, after all…, he thought.
He knew a true Seer when he saw one. He had just heard her make a prophecy.
A prophecy that was the answer to all his questions.
The Dark Lord…
Voldemort, came the thought, his mind in a turmoil.
He had to protect her, to keep her safe from Tom Riddle and his minions.
Dumbledore lifted his eyes to look at her. The young Seer seemed to awaken from a dream. She was completly unaware of the hopes – and fears – she’d just given him.
"Well," he said, coming to a decision, "we’ll be happy to have you at Hogwarts."
"Of course, I knew you would say that," Sybill Trelawney answered. "I saw it yesterday in the tea leaves at the bottom of my first cup of tea."
"I’ll send our Keeper of the Keys tomorrow to fetch you. The sooner you come to Hogwarts, the better."
She seemed very pleased. Dumbledore thanked her for coming and stood to leave.
Suddenly, there was another commotion in the corridor. Sybill Trelawney let out a squeak of fright and hid behind the old wizard. This time, the door opened and Aberforth appeared. He had a young man with sallow skin and greasy hair by the scruff of his neck. Dumbledore hadn’t heard of Severus Snape since he left school. For seven years, he’d kept a close eye on the boy: young Severus was very talented, and he was a rarety in Slytherin House – a half-blood with ambition and nothing to loose. He would have been one of the finest wizard, if he had not been so obsessed with the Dark Arts… and if he hadn’t been under bad influences. It seemed Dumbledore had been right to fear the boy would join Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Of course, he’d tried to talk to him, but Severus Snape was as proud and secret as he was a good wizard.
Their eyes met, then the young man struggled like one possessed. He succeeded in freeing himself and disapparated.
"He must have followed you upstairs while I had my back to the room," Aberforth said matter of factly. He didn’t seem very troubled. "I don’t know what he thought was going on here. He was eavesdropping on you."
Of course, Aberforth had no idea of what had just happened. But he had a point nonetheless. Nothing extraordinary was supposed to happen tonight. And yet…
But why would Voldemort send one of his man to spy on an uninteresting interview?
Of course, it could have been a coincidence. Severus might have recognized him and decided to act on his own in the hope of gaining the favours of his Master. And the fact was, Dumbledore might not be the only one who had heard the prophecy… But how much of it did Snape hear?
"There is nothing to fear", Dumbledore lied to Sybill Trelawney, knowing they had every reason to be afraid. "I’ll see you at Hogwarts in the morning. Meanwhile, you will be safe here, in the Hog’s Head."
He looked pointedly at Aberforth, who gave him an almost imperceptible nod.
A/N: I've discussed the chronology and the events of that night so often with friends of mine! Please, whether you liked this chapter or not... leave a review!
Thanks to JK Rowling for having created the Potterverse for us to play in - and mess things up.